One-Year Mortality of Patients After Emergency Department Treatment for Nonfatal Opioid Overdose

Study objective

Despite the increased availability of naloxone, death rates from opioid overdose continue to increase. The goal of this study is to determine the 1-year mortality of patients who were treated for a nonfatal opioid overdose in Massachusetts emergency departments (EDs).


This was a retrospective observational study of patients from 3 linked statewide Massachusetts data sets: a master demographics list, an acute care hospital case-mix database, and death records. Patients discharged from the ED with a final diagnosis of opioid overdose were included. The primary outcome measure was death from any cause within 1 year of overdose treatment.


During the study period, 17,241 patients were treated for opioid overdose. Of the 11,557 patients who met study criteria, 635 (5.5%) died within 1 year, 130 (1.1%) died within 1 month, and 29 (0.25%) died within 2 days. Of the 635 deaths at 1 year, 130 (20.5%) occurred within 1 month and 29 (4.6%) occurred within 2 days.


The short-term and 1-year mortality of patients treated in the ED for nonfatal opioid overdose is high. The first month, and particularly the first 2 days after overdose, is the highest-risk period. Patients who survive opioid overdose should be considered high risk and receive interventions such as being offered buprenorphine, counseling, and referral to treatment before ED discharge.

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